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How Long Can Donor Sclera Be Safely Stored?

Romanchuk, K. G. MD, FRCSC; Nair, P. MD, BSc; Grahn, B. DVM

Basic Investigations

Purpose. To determine whether after prolonged storage of sclera in glycerin, there is any bacteriologic contamination that will reactivate, whether reconstituted sclera retains its tensile strength, and whether sclera retains its microstructural integrity.

Methods. Sixty-six scleral shells stored in glycerin for 9 to 19 years, as well as 11 controls stored for 6 months to 4 years, were studied by cutting a small wedge of tissue from the anterior margin of each and directly inoculating into thioglycolate broth, cutting an equatorial ring and determining its break strength using a tensiometer, and cutting a small piece from the remaining posterior portion and examining by scanning electron microscopy.

Results. After such prolonged storage, bacteriologic contamination was not detected, tensile strength generally increased with increasing duration of storage, and ultrastructural integrity was maintained on scanning electron microscopy.

Conclusions. This study suggests that storage of scleral shells can be safely prolonged; we hope this can facilitate an increased supply of donated sclera to patients and surgeons.

We have had a few unused scleral shells per year since the inception of our eye bank in 1981, and these were quarantined and stored separately. This tissue was not otherwise suitable for clinical use because of prolonged storage (with some specimens predating mandatory serologic testing of donors!) and had been donated for transplant, teaching, or research.

We studied 66 scleral shells donated between 1981 and 1991 and stored in glycerin for 9 to 19 years, as well as 11 scleral shells more recently donated and stored between 6 months and 4 years, to answer three questions: (1) Is there any bacteriologic contamination that will reactivate? (2) When reconstituted (in balanced salt solution) does sclera retain its tensile strength after such prolonged storage? (3) Does sclera retain its microstructural integrity with such prolonged storage, as determined by scanning electron microscopy?

From the Department of Ophthalmology (K.G.R.), College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; Department of Family Medicine (P.N.), Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; and Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (B.G.), Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Submitted December 10, 2002.

Revision received March 27, 2003.

Accepted April 8, 2003.

Part of this work was presented at the 41st Annual Scientific Session of the Eye Bank Association of America, October 19, 2002, in Orlando, Florida.

This study was supported in part by the Dr. CH & Lenore Andrews Scholarship & Research Endowment Fund, the Lions Eye Bank of Saskatchewan Inc., and a sabbatical research grant from the University of Saskatchewan.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to K.G. Romanchuk, Eye Centre, Saskatoon City Hospital, 701 Queen Street, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 0M7, Canada. E-mail: romanchukk@sdh.sk.ca

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.